For American University students, I am offering a slightly revised version of the seminar in Science and Environmental Communication that I have taught the past few years, focusing more specifically on sustainability-related challenges. Information about the course is below. As in past years, students from the course will also be contributing guest posts to AoE -- and in the near future -- I am planning to offer an online version of this course. -- Matt
COM 589 SUSTAINABILITY COMMUNICATION
Navigating a Hot, Flat and Crowded World
Prof. Matthew C. Nisbet
11:45AM - 2:25PM
Open to All Majors with
2.5 GPA and Junior, Senior, or Graduate Standing
Problems related to sustainability -- including climate change, energy insecurity, income inequality, and extreme weather -- are the dominant social challenges of our time. Effectively navigating these challenges will require a shift in how we participate in politics, think about the economy, define policy action, communicate with others, and invest in media and communities. As a consequence, employers across sectors will be looking for graduates who understand sustainability challenges and who can communicate about them effectively and strategically.
In this seminar, students will be introduced to major areas of research, principles, and strategies for engaging the public, the media, and decision-makers on sustainability-related problems. Readings, discussion, and assignments will be applied to debates such as those over climate change policy, organic and biotech food, natural gas fracking, biodiversity loss, ocean conservation, nuclear energy, nanotechnology, and efforts to protect communities from extreme weather events. Across these topics and others, we will examine the communication strategies employed by the scientific community, government agencies, environmental groups, the conservative movement, industry organizations, and journalists.
Readings will draw on scholarly studies and book chapters, reports, news articles, and popular books. Students will also view documentaries and online presentations from experts and thought leaders. Assignments include 4 two-page analysis papers, a midterm and final, and a 15-20 page research paper on a topic of the student’s choosing. Students will also have the opportunity to turn their analysis papers into blog posts at BigThink.com. Check out examples of posts from previous years.
About the Professor
Matthew Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication and Co-Director of the Center for Social Media at American University. His research investigates the role of communication in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over science, sustainability, and public health. He is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed studies, book chapters, and monographs; writes and edits the Age of Engagement blog and is a contributing columnist to The Breakthrough. Nisbet has been a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Google Science Communication Fellow, and is currently a Shorenstein Fellow in Press, Politics, and Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Communication from Cornell University and an A.B. in Government from Dartmouth College.